The Protein Debate


With all our New Year’s Resolutions hitting the gym in quest of the perfect body, protein powders and other supplements become a hot topic. I get questions about protein powders daily. Are they a good idea? Are they necessary? Do they really help? Do they taste good? How many shakes should be taken daily? And many, many more.

The answers to these questions are different for each individual. Although we are all human beings, we each “work” differently. Even siblings with the same parents, same DNA and gene pool can have vast differences in how their bodies function. So how do you know if a protein supplement  is right for you? To find the answer, I have some questions for you to answer.

  • Are you currently logging your food in either, a written or online food journal?

If not, start…like now. If you are, and are using a handwritten version, you need to figure out what percentage of your daily caloric intake is coming from protein. The food journal I use with all of my clients is fitday ( I like this particular food journal because at the bottom of each day’s page, there is a pie chart  representing each of your nutrients and the percentage of calories that came from each. Most people do well on a 40/30/30 split.  That’s 40% carbs, 30 % protein and fat as well. Occasionally, there are adjustments that need to be made on an individual basis. There are several factors the affect the adjustments being made. One of the biggest factors being  a persons daily energy expenditure, or calories burned throughout the days activities.

  • Once you know what percentage of your calories are from protein, compare your actual percentage to the recommended 30%. How do you stack up?

If you’re nowhere close to 30%, you may want to consider using a protein powder to supplement your diet and get in the extra protein your body needs. However, if you can get the protein you need through eating additional healthy foods, that option is always best. On the other hand, some people cannot, do not or prefer not to eat meat or dairy products. In this case, a protein powder is highly recommended to ensure that the body gets the protein it requires for all the metabolic process that are constantly occurring.

For some people, a protein supplement  is necessary. I  include protein shakes in my diet and do so in order to make sure I get enough protein to support my highly active lifestyle. Without a protein supplement, I wouldn’t be getting near enough. So why does that matter?

Protein has many functions in the body, all of which are  of critical importance. Without protein, we would not survive. For example, the process of breathing would not be possible without protein. Confused? Let me explain. In order to breathe, you must have muscle contraction. Muscle contraction requires protein. The range of essential functions that protein supports in the body, include the following:

  • Required for building and repair of body tissues (including muscle)
  • Enzymes, hormones, and many immune molecules are proteins
  • Essential body processes such as water balancing, nutrient transport, and muscle contractions all require protein for support and proper function
  • Protein is a source of energy (each gram=4 calories of energy)
  • Protein helps keep skin, hair, and nails healthy
  • Protein, like most other essential nutrients, is absolutely crucial  to  your  overall health
Kind of a big deal if you really think about it, huh? Protein is definitely important and it is essential that you are getting enough of it in your diet. Otherwise, you can experience symptoms such as:
  • Edema  (aka swelling, usually of the legs, ankles and feet, but can occur anywhere in the body)
  • Weight loss
  • Thinning or brittle hair, hair loss
  • Ridges or deep lines in finger and toe nails
  • Skin becomes very light, burns easily in the sun
  • Reduced pigmentation in the hair on scalp and body
  • Skin rashes, dryness, flakiness
  • General weakness and lethargy
  • Muscle soreness and weakness, cramps
  • Slowness in healing wounds, cuts, scrapes, and bruises
  • Bedsores and other skin ulcers
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headache
  • Nausea and stomach pain
  • Fainting
  • Crankiness, moodiness
  • Severe depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of energy, no desire to do things
So, all in all, not a fun list of yuckiness huh? Bottom line? Get enough protein, and use a supplement if you have to. The key is to make sure you find a high quality protein supplement so that you’re not just drinking chalk water. After much experimenting, I have found my own personal favorites, you’ll find yours too!

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